News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 1, 2007

Genealogy: Orphanages play important role in history

By Tamie Dehler

TERRE HAUTE — Although orphans’ homes are now a thing of the past in today’s society, they played an important role in earlier centuries. Vigo County once had three orphanages, two of which received high praises during their years of operation for being models of high standards and quality care.

In 1872, the Sisters of Providence opened a hospital on the north side of town and called it Providence Hospital. The building was funded by a generous donation from philanthropist Chauncey Rose. This large, gothic facility was situated on the east side of 13th Street between 5th and 6th avenues. Providence Hospital never really caught on in the community, and was in operation for only two years. The bishop then acquired the hospital building from the Sisters and it was converted to an orphanage for girls which opened in 1876. One-hundred seventy-six girls were brought to the new facility from Vincennes, and the home was called St. Ann Orphan’s Home. It continued operating until early 1919, when it was permanently closed and the residents were transferred to Indianapolis. St. Ann’s Orphan’s Home consistently had more than 100 residents during its years of operation.

Chauncey Rose also played a major role founding Vigo County’s second orphanage, the Rose Orphan’s Home, which was in operation in Terre Haute from 1884 to 1949. This institution was conceptualized in 1873 when the Vigo County Orphan Home Board was formed, backed by Mr. Rose. When he died in 1877, before the home was actually built, the name was changed to honor him. Located on the northeast corner of 25th Street and Wabash Avenue, the Rose Orphan’s Home was called “one of the top 10 children’s institutions in the U.S.” in 1910, and was identified as “the nation’s finest” in 1929. It housed up to 150 children. When the Rose Home ceased operation in 1949, its residents were transferred to the Glenn Home.

The Glenn Home, which was located in the Lost Creek Township town of East Glenn, was also known as the Vigo County Home for Dependent Children. It operated from 1903 to 1979. It was built on the “cottage plan,” in which different buildings serving different ages were scattered across a campus. In 1915 it was said of the institution that “nothing of this class is superior in the state.” The home was partially self-supporting, with the girls making the residents’ clothing, as well as participating in other domestic activities, and the boys working on the farm that was part of the property. Glenn Home was the only one of the institutions that took infants. Its census ranged from around 175 to 60 children, but it averaged 100 residents at any one time. During certain years, the institution practiced racial segregation, and there are two buildings on the premises that once served as cottages for black children.

For genealogists, finding an ancestor or relative who was placed in an orphanage can be a challenge. A local woman, herself an adoptee, has spent the past three years building some impressive Web sites to honor Vigo County’s three orphanages and their past residents. Jennifer Krockenberger has built sites that tell the history of each institution, feature a variety of pictures and photos, offer a place for former residents to post queries or reminisce, and provide links to the federal censuses for each institution. Visit these fascinating sites at stannsorphanshome.

homestead.com, roseorphans

home.homestead.com, and glennhome.homestead.com.

Krockenberger also has a site at z9.invisionfree.com/THChildrens Homes/index.php?act=idx, which serves as a message board for the orphanage Web sites.

Next week will continue with more information on the orphanages and will feature information on the upcoming tribute to the Glenn Home children’s cemetery.